Bohdan Kolos for New Pathway – Ukrainian News.
Most people will quickly admit, after having lived through world wars, displacement, and emigration, that life can be full of surprises, and rarely does one arrive at their exact planned destination.
This past summer, the Ukrainian community of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, found itself at a respectful celebration of just such a life – the life and achievements of Father Wolodymyr Iwaszko, a spiritual and popular public leader in their western Ukrainian-Canadian parish and community.
The celebration took place in Saskatoon, at the St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral and their Eparchial Park, with a Divine Liturgy and the unveiling and blessing of the bronze memorial plaque honouring Fr. Iwaszko, his accomplishments and 42 years of service to this community.
Divine Liturgy at the St. Volodymyr Church, eparchial park, Saskatoon
Local artist Rick Luczka lovingly created the elegant bronze plaque in the studio foundry of Luna Metal Work on the family farm.
Memorial plaque with Olena Coba and Bohdan Kolos, both past presidents of Plast Canada
Born in 1908 in Sambir, Ukraine (today in Lviv Oblast), Wolodymyr Iwaszko was, from an early age, a member of the Plast youth movement.
In the 1930s, in Western Ukraine, Plast was considered a patriotic youth organization and was banned by the then-Polish government. Plast activities were prohibited, resulting in their meetings being held secretly, away from prying eyes, often outdoors in the woods.
Fr. Iwaszko, by this time, had realized his calling of becoming a priest. He continued his dual role as priest and Plast leader and was arrested in 1939. He was detained in Poland’s “Bereza Kartuska” concentration camp as a political prisoner. It was charged that Fr. Iwaszko “was too good at organizing young people.”
After the war’s end, Fr. Iwaszko and many members of Plast found themselves in Displaced Person camps living a temporary existence in western Europe. They all realized it was impossible to return to their homeland, which Stalin’s Soviet Union then occupied. Russian political forces wanted to expand their power and influence over neighbouring countries.
At this time, the Supreme Plast Executive in Munich encouraged Father Iwaszko to emigrate to Canada and tasked him to create a Plast organization there. He landed in Winnipeg, where in 1948, he was credited with founding the first Plast branch in Canada.
The Ukrainian Catholic Church leadership, however, also had needs and plans. They assigned this charismatic immigrant priest first to Winnipeg, next to Prince Albert, where he stayed for five years, and finally to Saskatoon, where he arrived in 1953.
Plast was not a new idea to Ukrainians in the western provinces. Bishop Nykyta Budka and later Rev. Wasyl Kushnir supported the concept of encouraging Ukrainian children to become Plast Scouts. When Father Iwaszko settled in Saskatoon, a Plast organization became more viable.
Fr. Wolodymyr Iwaszko served his community in Saskatoon until his death in 1995 at 87. This summer’s event in the church park brought together members of the Plast and SUM organizations since Father was Chaplain to both youth groups at various times.
The events at the memorial celebrations were led mainly by Father Ivan Nahachewsky, a former member of Plast in Saskatoon and now a priest in the parish. He had also served for seven months in Operation Unifier as a Chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces’ mission in Ukraine.
Fr. Ivan reminisced, “He (Fr. Iwaszko) taught us the culture and faith by living it. I don’t remember his sermons, but I know many of his lessons. I do remember learning self-worth from him and honesty and integrity. I remember wanting to be like him. He made such an impression that I still want to be like him”.
Viktoriia Marko, the editor/organizer of the recently published book about Fr. Iwaszko, ”From Sambir to Saskatoon,” and organizer of the commemoration celebrations, said in her forward that “a good community leader always finds themselves a job to do in their community, which is precisely why we in Saskatchewan and all of Canada pay our respect to those that help.”
Over the years, Father Iwaszko was recognized for his spiritual leadership and humanitarian and community work. The Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy awarded him the Metrat designation in 1981 for his leadership in the Saskatchewan Eparchy. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress in 1983 awarded Father Iwaszko their highest award, the Shevchenko Award, for his community work. In 1984 he received the distinguished Plast Gold St. George medal for his Plast activities with young people and organizational work.
Father Iwaszko would be proud of his role in influencing the upbringing of young people to understand that what they do can make a big difference. Their energy, enthusiasm and care can make the world a better place.
More can be learned about Father Wolodymyr Iwaszko’s community role in the recently published collection of articles gathered by Viktoriia Marko. The book “From Sambir to Saskatoon” is available from the National Plast office in Toronto or the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon, Canada.
Share on Social Media